It’s time to apply for Poynter’s women’s leadership academy. Here’s what you need to know.

November 1, 2019 and

This story was updated on Nov. 25, 2019.

Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media is a highly competitive and transformative program that focuses on the skills and knowledge needed to rise to the highest levels of digital media leadership. Applications for the 2020 program are now open!

There will be three separate classes for Poynter’s 2020 program, held Feb. 23-28, 2020 (Winter), April 19-24, 2020 (Spring), and Oct. 4-9, 2020 (Fall), at Poynter’s campus in St. Petersburg, Florida. There will be one application to seat all 2020 classes, and it is open until Dec. 7 2019.

To answer your first question: Yes, you are awesome and should probably apply.

Why are there three academies in 2020?

Offering multiple academies allows Poynter to help meet the demand for this training. Classes are chosen based on the quality of applicants and other factors to ensure a diverse group, but there’s no difference in the caliber of the academies. Each class will receive custom feedback from their coworkers, participate in similar training, learn from incredible guest faculty, and become part of the larger cohort of program alumnae.

Can I apply if I live outside the U.S.?

Yes! We will again open the academy to English-speaking international applicants this year. Participants will cover their own travel costs. However, a limited number of travel stipends are available and will be determined once the application process is completed.

Why is there tuition for the 2020 programs?

Tuition for the 2020 program is $1,095 and covers five days of teaching from prominent faculty, one-on-one coaching and networking; lunches, snacks, socials and some dinners; and continued support after the academy as part of the Cohort.

As a nonprofit, we work to keep program costs low and participation accessible to women from all types of media organizations and locations. Each year, we secure sponsorships to further offset costs, and we offer need-based scholarships and travel stipends. There is a spot on the application to let us know if you require financial aid.

After five years of hosting this program — and seven other annual seminars dedicated to newsroom leadership — we find that organizations understand the value of Poynter leadership programs and are willing to invest. In our three-year impact survey of graduates from the Leadership Academy for Women in Media:

  • 76% have improved the working dynamics of one or more teams
  • 81% got promoted or have more job responsibilities
  • 76% use something they learned every day or at least once a week

Worried about asking your employer to contribute to your development through this program? Here are some tips for getting them to say “yes.”

Who is the ideal candidate for the Leadership Academy for Women in Media?

We’re looking for women working in media who have leadership responsibilities — formal or otherwise — and are looking to continue climbing the career ladder. If you’re reading this and feel like you might be a good fit, you should apply.

I applied for the academy before and wasn’t selected. Why should I apply again?

This program is extremely competitive, but we believe taking the time to complete the application is worth it. For each class, we evaluate both the individuals and the group as a whole: we look for a rich mix of diversity in several areas, including race, geography, media, roles and more.

We will give preference to previous applicants when selecting this year’s classes.

What happened to “digital” in the name?

For the first five years, this program was called Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media. Producing digital content is now a big part of every journalist’s role, so using “digital media” in the seminar title felt redundant and a bit retro.

We also accept women in all types of media leadership roles, not just those who oversee strictly digital operations. Leadership Academy for Women in Media is simply more accurate.

What do you mean by “an example of a digital project you’ve worked on”?

The project can be anything you worked on, either solo or as a team. This could be a substantial story or series of stories, a website, an app, or anything else in the digital space. In some cases, there may not be one specific final product to point to — you may have coordinated a social media campaign or a real-life event, for example. In that case, explain your involvement and leadership in the project, and your supporting link could be to a hashtag or series of social posts that are a good representation of the work you’ve done.

Can you tell me what you’re looking for with the letter of recommendation?

We recommend you ask someone who works closely with you who could speak to your demonstrated and potential leadership ability and/or grasp of digital media. The letter should address these questions: 1. What can the applicant learn from this seminar that they can later use to benefit others in their organization? 2. What leadership traits does this person already possess and how can we help the applicant improve their skills?

How long should a letter of recommendation be?

Due to the volume of applications we anticipate receiving, please keep recommendation letters to roughly one page. Don’t worry about getting your recommendation on fancy letterhead — you’ll paste the letter into the online application field. If you paste a link to an electronic version, please double check the permission settings so it is visible to anyone with the link.

To whom should my recommendation letter be addressed?

Since a team from Poynter and volunteers from a variety of journalism organizations will be assisting with the selection process, we suggest addressing recommendation letters to the selection committee, without specific names.

Any other tips for application success?

Don’t forget to take ownership for your accomplishments. Be clear about your contributions as you draft your bio and project description, even if you worked as part of a team.

What are the important dates in the application and selection process?

Applications open: Nov. 1, 2019

Applications close: Dec. 7, 2019

Participants announced: Jan. 2020

How does this program differ from ONA’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator?

ONA’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator was borne out of the Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media, which ONA and Poynter launched in 2015. The end of our two-year partnership ensures that twice the training is available for women, allowing both organizations to help meet demand.

Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media is an in-depth program designed to help leaders at any career stage move to the next level. Each academy will include inspiring talks, hands-on activities, candid discussions and networking opportunities all focused on building women’s leadership and management skills. Cohort members will create practical leadership development plans they can implement as they return to the newsroom, and they will receive one-on-one coaching during and after the academy to ensure personal success.

ONA’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator is a year-long, intensive program that supercharges the leadership and management skills of women who are pushing digital innovation. Participants will focus on a challenge specific to their careers and learn leadership skills and tools for navigating change. The Accelerator kicks off with a week of tailored, immersive programming in March, provides support and coaching to participants throughout the year and culminates with a workshop at ONA’s annual conference.

You’re welcome to apply to both programs, but you can only participate in one. ONA and Poynter coordinate during the selection process and work to pair participants with the cohort that will be the best fit for them.

I don’t work for a news company. Can I apply?

Please feel free to apply, but know that we place a priority on journalists who are freelancers or working for news companies.

If you still have questions after reading this page, please contact


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